Sunday, February 21, 1999

Sherlock Holmes

“You see, but you do not observe. The distinction is clear.” Sherlock Holmes's quote from “The Scandal of Bohemia” can be compared with Aldous Huxley, in "The Art of Seeing", who summed up visual communication, "The more you know; the more you see." Understanding yesterday's and today's Sherlock Holmes, connects both Sherlock's and Huxley's conclusion: if you observe the little details and clues around you and understand what you observe; it can lead you to an important insight. This paper will explore the six perspectives in how the written, and visual aspects of Sherlock Holmes's character has been created and communicated into an exceptionally strong identity that resonates among the generations of Sherlock Holmes fans. (Lester, P.M., p. 11,2011) ( Huxley, A., 2012)(, 2012)

Personal Perspective

When Sir Arthur Conan Doyle first wrote the stories of the masterly detective Sherlock Holmes, the public's fascination about the character and his role in solving crimes, suddenly increased enthusiastically. Holmes solved cases through his magnifying glass and discovered traces of evidence with all the tools available that existed in the late 19th century. Today, this immortal detective's popularity continues to be viable. In the 21st century, the tools of technology have made Sherlock's powers of deduction more explosive. Holmes's continues to exhibited an extraordinary ability to gather evidence through his honed skills of observation and deductive reasoning. Although he has difficulties with social interactions, his only loyal friend and colleague is Dr. John H. Watson, who brings humanity and humility to Holmes. (BBC, 2012) (PBS, 2012) (gutenberg, 2012)

Sherlock Holmes character bears the mark of longevity from the Scottish creator Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and all who read those countless Sherlock Holmes short stories when they were younger. Even today, Sherlock resides at 221 Baker Street, London with his friend and colleague Dr. John Watson. The admired detective solves cases with his comrade, Dr. Watson whose character Sir Conan Doyle portrays as a competent loyal ally to Holmes and also a disabled army physician from Afghanistan. What is so attractive about Sherlock Holmes is his dual personality that brings out his brilliance in deduction, while at the same time he can easily become bored when there are no puzzles or crimes to be solved. The British Broadcasting Corporation Channel's (BBC) modern Sherlock frequently states he is in 'his mind palace' when trying to solve crimes. He uses what one may call an ancient Greek Method of Loci, a memory technique that dates back to 500 B.C. (BBC, 2012) (PBS, 2012)(healthdiscovery, 2012)

The method of Loci is based on the assumption that you remember best when you place that memory in a familiar place in your mind location which will serve as a clue to remember. The method is usually used by people who are good at visualizing. Many of the Greek and Roman orators use the Loci method as a memory tool to give speeches without the aid of notes. The Loci method works well, because it enhances the way you remember. You visualize rooms in your mind's house as departments to store the memory for a particular item. After visualizing the item using all your physical senses (smell, feel, see, hear, etc) , you store the information in a particular room in your house. (howstuffworks, 2012)

Historical Perspective

Author Sir Arthur C. Doyle's Sherlock Holmes stories helped unleash the passion for mystery and detection that has persisted for over a century, along with recognition spanning over the world. Sherlock was modeled after Dole's medical professor, physician Joseph Bell at the University of Edinburgh. Arthur Doyle admired Dr. Bell's extraordinary ability for observation, logic, deduction and diagnosis. Thus, by using the unique persona of Dr. Bell's abilities, the famous fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, was born. (SherlockHolmesonline, 2012)

In order to understand the time-line of the public's fascination to Sherlock Holmes, the time-line of Sir Author Conan Doyle has to be recognized as well. As a writer, as well as a physician, the young Conan Doyle was better known for his written work in America than in England. His first novel “A Study In Scarlet” was first published 1887 in Beeton's Christmas Annual, in which the novel introduces both Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. It was not until 1889, that a publisher of the Lippincott's Monthly Magazine from Philadelphia, U.S.A. wanted to establish a British edition for his magazine. After meeting with Doyle and another well know writer, Oscar Wilde, Doyle was commissioned to write a short novel for the magazine. On February 1890, “The Sign of Four” was then published in both America and England and instrumental in establishing name recognition for both Conan Doyle and the eccentric pipe smoking detective Sherlock Holmes. But it was not until Doyle started to write for “The Strand” magazine later that year, that the 'image' of Holmes was created by a talented illustrator, Sidney Paget. Paget used his handsome brother as a model to create Sherlock's image. From that point onward, the author, the magazine, and the artist established recognition around the world. (SherlockHolmesonline, 2012)

In 1891, The Strand serialized the antics of the famous detective 'Holmes' and his side kick 'Dr. Watson' with the arch-enemy professor Moriarty in “The Scandal of Bohemia”. After a few years, Doyle became tired of the short stories surrounding Holmes and decided after a trip back from Switzerland, that Sherlock had to come to an end. In 1893, the “The Final Problem” was published and the famous “Sherlock Holmes and professor Moriarty plunged to their death at the Reichenbach Falls” in Switzerland. This resulted in 20,000 people canceling their “The Strand Magazine” subscriptions. (SherlockHolmesonline, 2012)

Nineteen hundred was the year the Boer War started. This was the year Doyle decided to get involved in a war instead of just writing about battles of the war. Age and weight kept him from being enlisted, so he decided he would volunteer as a physician. After Doyle was accepted, he went to Africa. This time he battled the microbes while writing a 500 page chronicle of the war “The Great Boer War”. (SherlockHolmesonline, 2012)

After the war, Canon Doyle spent some time in the Devonshire moors in England. Back to writing again, Doyle decided to bring back Sherlock Holmes (as if the detective had never vanished) and wrote and published in “The Strand” magazine “The Hounds of The Baskervilles” in 1901. Today, this story remains the favorite of the world-wide public. Doyle wrote a total of 56 short stories and 4 novels involving Sherlock and Watson. There also has been numerous of films and TV series depicting Conan Doyle's stories. (SherlockHolmesonline, 2012)


In the late 1890s, Holmes uses forensic tools such as a magnifying glass, microscope, and assortment of dissolving chemicals in order to do research on evidence found around the crime scene. Microscopic analysis in the today's laboratory is very important in forensic chemistry in crime investigations, such as in the 1927 “The Adventure of Shoscombe Old Place”. Sherlock Holmes had been bending for a long time over a low-power microscope. "Now he straightened himself up and looked around at me in triumph." “It is glue, Watson,” said he . . . “Those hairs are threads from a tweed coat. The irregular grey masses are dust. There are epithelial scales on the left. Those brown blobs in the centre are undoubtedly glue . . . Since I ran down that coiner by the zinc and copper fillings in the seam of his cuff, they [Scotland Yard] have begun to realize the importance of the microscope.”

. (freeservers, 2012) (BBC, 2012) (PBS, 2012)

Since the late 19th century the beginnings of forensic science was sprouting. Accordingly to Forensic Science -History, Sir Francis Galton reveals finger prints are “unique and do not change with age”. In 1890, Scotland Yard used a system that a French police official, Alphonse Bertillon, developed. The Bertillon systems used 11 body measurements and dimensions that were photograph. It was considered one in 250 million chance that two people would have the same dimensions and measurements. In 1894, finger prints were added to the Bertillon system. By today's means, Sherlock Holmes would fit in like a glove in forensic science. The 21st century gives Sherlock has technology at his finger tips, his laptop, his smart-phone, a forensics laboratory, contact with Scotland Yard and/or British police and of course his innate ability to resolve a complex cases from the smallest of clues. Today's Sherlock displays a self-conscience emphasis on aligning both its narrative and visual style with text messaging and the Internet. It also should be noted that the modern-day Sherlock's thoughts and observations have been sub-titled on the screen in all “Sherlock” TV BBCs episodes (jrank, 2012) (PBS, 2012)

The recent BBC Series I consists of three stories. "A Study of Pink" loosely based upon Doyle's "A Study in Pink." The” Great Game" is based upon several Doyle's novels including "A Study in Scarlet", "The Five Orange Pips", "The Adventure of the Retired Colourman", "The Adventure of the Naval Treaty", "The Adventure of the Final Problem", and A Scandal in Bohemia". The “Blind Banker” episode is based from Doyle's "The Valley of Fear." The recent BBC series II consist of three stories, “The Scandal of Belgravia”, “The Hounds of Baskervilles”, and “The Reichenbach Fall”. The “Scandal of Belgravia” is an updated “A Scandal in Bohemia”, a short story apart of "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" made in 1891. Belgravia is the Buckingham Palace district. Bohemia is an area in the Czech Republic. The Hounds of the Baskervilles is a popular novel published in 1902. The Reichenbach Fall is from "The Final Problem", a 1893 short story in "The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes". The Reichenbach Fall is where Sherlock and John Watson meet in "The Final Problem" novel. The series involves today's technology with yesterdays stories by Sir Arthur Canon Boyle. All the series are fast action, humorous, adventurous and does not disregard what the original author wanted to convey. (BBC, 2012)(, 2012)(PBS, 2012)

Ethical perspective

“What is it today, I asked, morphine or cocaine? It is cocaine, he [Sherlock] said, a seven-per-cent solution. Would you like to try it?” “Sherlock Holmes took his bottle from the corner of the mantelpiece, and his hypodermic syringe from its neat morocco case. With his long, white, nervous fingers he adjusted the delicate needle and rolled back his left shirtcuff. For some little time his eyes rested thoughtfully upon the sinewy forearm and wrist, all dotted and scarred with innumerable puncture-marks. Finally, he thrust the sharp point home, pressed down the tiny piston, and sank back into the velvet-lined armchair with a long sigh of satisfaction.” (, 2012)
In the mid 1800s to early 1900s, the impetuous Sherlock Holmes usage of a legal drug cocaine was a predominate occurrence when Sherlock became bored and under-stimulated between cases. This acknowledgment was identified in both Doyle's written stories and earlier Sherlock film episodes. Holmes's drug addiction survived the mid 1890s until the early 1900s where cocaine-opium elixir medicines, tonics, wines, and soft drinks such as Coca-Cola were considered safe, acceptable and commonly use and embedded among all social classes. Well known Sigmund Freud promoted cocaine as a cure for depression and sexual impotence and/or Thomas Edison promoting the positive effects from cocaine elixirs. Hollywood also participated in advertising and influencing the mass audience about the drug's benefits through means of silent-film stars' personal testimonials and by the stars' own publicizes life styles. Eventually a majority of the public realized regular usage of cocaine had major side effects such as addiction and deterioration affects on the mind and body. It was not until 1920 that the Dangerous Drug Act was passed and cocaine became one the drugs listed that would be outlawed. The 21st century Sherlock has replaced the needle injections of cocaine with nicotine patches. (, 2012)(BBC, 2012) (PBS, 2012)

The BBC's 21st Century's Sherlock is more anti-social and crude at times in comparison to the Sherlock in the 1890s. Dr. Watson's character becomes a 'gate-keeper' to Sherlock's verbal and nonverbal behavior. Regardless of what era, Sherlock's trademark is still focused on his super-human deduction abilities. Both yesterday's and today's Sherlock Holmes personality could be described as barbed or impatient, while at the same time, composes his chose of words in a brilliant fashion.

Unlike other past and modern day detectives, Holmes considers women as a distraction and is quite neutral when it comes to women. He has a keen ability to understand other human beings and their actions, however, his logic is to maintain an emotional distance from anyone, especially women, that would interfere with his work . Sherlock becomes easily bored and somewhat reclusive until there is a juicy unsolved case that needs his attention, then Sherlock acts like he is on a lot of caffeine. Since Sherlock “. . cannot live without brain work. What else is there to live for.” (, 2012) (, 2012) (BBC, 2012)(PBS, 2012)


The latest Masterpiece theater film series called “Sherlock” are for the Holmes's admirers who don't want their favorite character Sherlock to upset their intelligence, taste, and admiration with just a mediocre character. They also do not like the main story line to stray without giving due reverence to Sir Conan Doyle. The BBC new adapts the long-loved Sherlock Holmes into a modern-age-era by paralleling and superbly intermixing Sir Arthur Canon Doyle's classical literature into the 21st Century's technology era. This attracts a variety of taste groups as well as the popular culture. (tumblr, 2012)

Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson are now known as Sherlock and John, the way we informally address people now. Instead of of John writing and publishing Sherlock's and his exploits in the Strand Magazine, he blogs it on the internet. The cutting-edge Sherlock not only consults with his clients at his 221 Baker Street flat, he also consults over the i-phone. At times Sherlock can view and evaluate crimes scenes by means of his home laptop webcam while his assistant John humorously uses his laptop webcam to scans the area around the crime scene. Rather then sending telegrams, Sherlock texts and instead of publishing articles, he composes on his own web site called “The Science of Deduction”, which is available on real time for all Sherlock's fans. Sherlock Holmes loves classical music and uses classical music and his own violin music compositions in order to ponder a thought on a case. (Freeservers, 2012) (, 2012)

Critical Perspective

The attraction the public has for any Sherlock Holmes televised series or films can easily be related to Huxley's statement "The more you know; the more you see" how Sherlock's character persona and analytical capabilities have evolved from the 19th century to modern times. From Canon Doyle's written work, the invention and advancement of films and television have visually evolved Sherlock's character from the 'the mind's eye' to the screen. (BBC, 2012)(PBS, 2012)

Writers and producers are stepping-up the adventures of Sherlock Holmes by incorporating some of Canon Doyle's language into today's dialogue and creating more suspenseful crimes that Sherlock and Dr. Watson have to solve. Science and technology have taken a larger role in today's Sherlock crimes scenes, as was mentioned earlier, in the development of forensic science. Music and sound in today's films are modernize and provides the aura of suspense as Sherlock and John are solving a case. (BBC, 2012)(PBS, 2012)

Yesteryear and today's film both recreated the ambiance of London. "...dense drizzly fog...and Mud-colored clouds droops over the muddy streets", as Canon Doyle's describes in "The Sign of Four," "Down the Strand" the lamps were but a misty splotches of diffuse light which threw a feeble-circular glimmer out into the slimy pavement." The 21st century TV episodes takes out the 'fog' and the 'diffuse light' from the Victorian gas light era to the modern day nuance. This method produces drama and recreates the audience's sense of today's reality. (PBS, 2012)(BBC, 2012) (, 2012) (tumblr, 2012)

By understanding the phrase "You See, but you do not observe" then you understand the subtile visual and written clues that are communicated about Sherlock's identity that resonates so strongly among the generations of admires. The immortal detective Holmes has always given the mystery genre meaning and illumination into solving crimes. Whether the crimes were done in the 19th century or in the 21th century, the results are the same. Understanding the charisma that Sherlock's character promotes, also holds true to Huxley's statement, "the more you know; the more you see", Sherlock is able to solve crimes with unequaled efficiency. For all who love Arthur Canon Doyle's famous detective character, Sherlock can be summarized by the following: “ My mind, . . . rebels of stagnation. Give me problems, give me work, give me the most abstruse cryptogram or the most intricate analysis, and I am in my own proper atmosphere. I can dispense then with artificial stimulants. But I abhor the dull routine of existence. I crave for mental exaltation. That is why I chosen my own particular profession, -or rather created it, for I am the only one in the world”. (, 2012)(, 2012) (Huxley, A, 2012)


Lester, P.M. (2011) Chapter 1 - Visual Communication

(pg. 11), Visual communication, images with messages, 5th edition, Wadsworth Cengage, printed in United States.

Anonymous (2012) Biography of Sherlock Holmes page 2

Received May 27, 2012 from SherlockHolmesonline website

Anonymous (2012) Sign of Four Chapter 1

Received May 27, 2012 from literature website

Anonymous (2012) Biography of Sherlock Holmes

Received May 27, 2012 from Sherlockholmesonline website

Anonymous (2012) Sherlock Season 2

Received May 27, 2012 from BBC website

Anonymous (2012) Chemistry of Sherlock Holmes

Received May 27, 2012 from freeservers website

Anonymous (2012) Sherlock Season 1

Received May 27, 2012 from BBC website

Anonymous (2012) Sherlock Season 2

Received May 27, 2012 from BBC website

Anonymous (2012) Mark Gatiss Live Chat

Received May 27, 2012 from Tumblr website

Anonymous (2012) Scandal of Bohemia

Received May 27, 2012 from Gutenberg website

Anonymous (2012) Forensic Science - History - Crime, Bertillon, People and System - JRank articles

Received May 27, 2012 from jrank website

Mohs , R.C.(2012) How to Improve Your memory

Received May 27, 2012 from howstuffworks website

Huxley, A (2012) The Art of Seeing

Received June 1, 2012 from website

Anonymous (2012) A Scandal in Bohemia

Received May 27, 2012 from mysterynet website

Anonymous (2012) Sherlock Holmes

Received May 27, 2012 from website

Anonymous (2012) Cocaine history

Received May 26, 2012 from narconon website


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